Staying healthy on the farm at harvest time

During harvest time, it’s easy to lose track of what the number one priority of any farmer should be – their own health.

It’s vital that during a time of long hours, stressful deadlines and gruelling physical activity, farmers don’t overlook their own wellbeing. Experienced farmers know how to stay safe on the farm, but what they often neglect is how to take care of themselves at such a busy time of year.

Here’s how you can look after yourself this harvest time so you can ensure you have another safe and healthy season.

Schedule in some rest

It’s difficult to know what the day will bring but try to prioritise taking a breather every hour or two to ensure you aren’t risking exhaustion (The Mayo Clinic).

Long hours sitting in farm vehicles can lead to being overtired, which can create an impaired mental state that is comparable to being intoxicated. You wouldn’t dream of operating machinery when drunk, so don’t take the risk when it comes to being tired from working long hours during harvest.

Keep nourished

It’s very tempting to snack on sugary, high-energy food when tired, but that is definitely doing yourself more harm than good. Instead, opt for fruit, veg or nuts to keep you going through the long day’s work.

Staying hydrated is equally as important. A lack of fluids can leave you feeling sluggish and grumpy and can even disrupt your sleep when you finally fall into bed.

Be prepared

Do you have a first aid kit close at hand when out in the field? If not, you really should – especially one with a tourniquet, which can save lives and limbs. You may never have to even open it but working with such powerful machinery of course carries risks that you should be prepared for (Ragan & Massey).

Check in with family and friends

It’s easy for farmers to charge headfirst through harvest season to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. With so much to do in such a short space of time, the stress can be overwhelming and carry with it, hidden risks.

The Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI) have reported a significant increase in the number of farmers seeking help in the last 12 months. Stress can carry physical symptoms including migraines and indigestion, so it’s worth looking to your mental wellbeing if you start to feel unwell during harvest.

Farmers often fail to realise they are suffering from poor mental wellbeing, so checking in with family and friends is a vital step to prevent anyone from suffering in silence. Even just having a quick chat at the end of the day is enough to check in with your family support system and let them know how you’re getting on

Don’t suffer alone

If you are struggling, there is no sense in suffering in silence when there are so many brilliant agricultural support organisations and charities out there. Organisations offering help include the Farm Safety Foundation, RSABI, Health & Safety Executive and NFU’s Farm Safety Partnership.

With agriculture still holding the worst rate of fatal injury across the industry averages, more must be done to prevent avoidable accidents, and this starts with the health and wellbeing of farmers. By looking after yourself, you can help reduce the risk to yourself and those you work with – a speedy harvest is never worth compromising your health for.

MSP supports their farmer customers so please do get in touch if we can do anything to make your job on the farm less stressful.